The reputed mastermind of a body-parts-for-sale scam can be released tomorrow from the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center - with no money down to ensure his $500,000 bail - an appellate judge ruled yesterday.
Should the wealthy suspect, Michael Mastromarino, skip facing his accusers here - the relatives of 244 Philadelphians whose remains, authorities say, were "harvested" illegally - he can stick Philly with the $500,000 bill.
And if anyone thinks the Brooklyn district attorney's office will track him down for Philly's bail, think again.
"We have no responsibility for someone who skips bail in Philadelphia," said Jonah Bruno, spokesman for the Brooklyn D.A.'s office, which will try Mastromarino on related offenses starting Jan. 7.
Mastromarino's release came when Superior Court Judge Richard B. Klein denied an appeal by the Philadelphia D.A.'s office yesterday.
The D.A.'s office had challenged whether Common Pleas Judge Pamela Dembe, the calendar and supervising judge of the trial division, could hear bail requests, after she reduced Mastromarino's bail on Monday from $5 million to $500,000 without his having to post surety, or a down payment.
Klein found Dembe properly heard the bail request, even though there could be "a cogent argument for higher bail."
"If he flees from Pennsylvania, he will also flee from New York, where he will have forfeited substantial bail" - $1.5 million - Klein wrote in an opinion after a hearing in his chambers. "That is why it is proper to consider the two together."
Dembe argued earlier that New York authorities could find Mastromarino if he flees from here.
Mastromarino, 44, owner of the now-defunct Bio-Medical Tissues Services, Inc., of Fort Lee, N.J., is charged with allegedly buying diseased body tissue here for more than $250,000 and selling it for $1 million for implants.
As for Dembe's admitting she had socialized with co-defendant and funeral-home operator Louis Garzone, Klein wrote "no one asked her to recuse herself" in the Mastomarino matter.
Nevertheless, Klein ruled that Mastromarino remain in custody until 11 a.m. tomorrow to allow the D.A.'s office to appeal.
Mastromarino's attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., came out of Klein's chambers smiling.
"Am I happy?" asked Peruto. "He'll be out Friday at 11, because of two highly respected judges."
But Peruto was still peeved that the D.A.'s office claimed it didn't get his Dec. 4 bail motion, after an associate offered to fax it. He vowed to ask Dembe for sanctions against prosecutors, who declined to comment.
During the hearing, Ronald Eisenberg, chief of the D.A.'s law division, argued that Mastromarino was a flight risk and "danger to the community," as a bail commissioner and three judges found earlier.
Peruto argued that Mastromarino was unlikely to flee since he has been married for 17 1/2 years, has two children and close family ties.
"They took his passport and froze his assets," he added. And he has shown up for every Brooklyn hearing.
"Maybe he won't flee with his wife," argued Eisenberg. Citing court documents, he added that Mastromarino had had affairs with two women, one in his office and one in New York.
Before Mastromarino's assets were frozen, Eisenberg added, "large transfers of money were moved from his possession to members of his family" that could used for him to flee.
The last high-profile defendant who fled when things weren't going his way was the 67-year-old hippie icon Ira Einhorn, who showed up "for everything" before fleeing for two decades.
Einhorn was convicted of killing girlfriend Holly Maddux and stuffing her body in a trunk in 1977.
Meantime, the D.A.'s office asked Dembe to recuse herself from the case, and she set a hearing for next Wednesday - a month before she was to hear pretrial motions on Jan. 14.